When a woman finds out that she is pregnant, it won’t be long before she is confronted with many long TO-DO and DON’T-DO lists. Many of the TO-DO’s are obvious: eat a healthy and well-balanced diet, get some level of exercise, maintain a healthy weight, visit the doctor for all those prenatal exams regularly, take a prenatal vitamin, get lots of rest, and take it easy!
Lots of the DON’T-DO’s are pretty obvious, too. Don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. Those things aren’t good for anybody, let alone pregnant women.
But then there are some things that fall into that tricky category of “Is this okay or not?” We’ve probably all heard that a pregnant woman shouldn’t eat sushi, but… why is that, exactly? Can a pregnant woman scoop out the cat litter box, or no? And what’s the deal with meats and cheeses? Everybody says not to eat brie or hot dogs, but what if that’s what mama is really craving? And what about exercise? Exercise during pregnancy can help a woman maintain a healthy weight and can help build stamina for labor and delivery – and later, for chasing around that little one! But what exercises are safe? How much exercise is too much? Is there such a thing as bad exercise when you’re pregnant?
Take a look at this list of things that can be dangerous during the first trimester of pregnancy. Some of them might not be a bombshell by any means, but there might be a thing or two on the list that’s surprising!
There is no amount of alcohol that is thought to be safe during pregnancy, and therefore, it should be avoided. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can interfere with the baby’s development; depending on the amount of alcohol and the timing of its consumption during pregnancy, drinking can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, birth defects, or other developmental disorders. Babies born with Fetal Alcohol syndrome may grow more slowly, have learning problems,
It’s possible that you might have consumed alcohol before you knew you were pregnant. If that’s the case, stop drinking as soon as you find out that you’re pregnant. (And avoid drinking while breastfeeding!)
You can still go out and have a good time, but do it without the booze. Enjoy some bar food and snacks or have a mocktail – something that’s a little sweet and bubbly with a garnish on the rim will look and feel just as festive, even if it doesn’t get you tipsy!
Smoking cigarettes can lead to serious health problems, for both mom and baby. Women who smoke throughout their pregnancy usually give birth to babies with low birth weights. Low birth weight babies are more likely to have health problems and trouble with regulating their body temperature, feeding, and breathing. Research shows that exposure to second-hand smoke is also linked to SIDS, which means that even if you’re not the one lighting up, you should avoid smokers and smoking areas whenever you can.
E-cigarettes aren’t any better. They still have nicotine and aren’t regulated by the FDA, so who knows what chemicals you’re exposing yourself (and your baby) to?
The same thing goes with marijuana. Although it has become more mainstream, using pot (or any other substance) can result in miscarriage, preterm labor, and birth defects.
If you’ve had trouble with trying to kick your cig habit, you have all the reason to stop now – your baby’s health. If you can quit for the nine months that you’re pregnant, hopefully it’ll be easy for you to stay smoke-free for good after the baby arrives!
You’re pregnant. You’re kind of supposed to be tired. As the baby inside you starts growing rapidly, you’ll probably feel exhausted during the first trimester. It’s okay to take some time out to rest, especially during the first trimester.
But if you depend on caffeine to help keep you up and running during the day, you might want to scale back. Some studies show that moderate caffeine consumption is okay, but others show that caffeine may be related to miscarriage. Other studies show that other risks associated with caffeine are low birth weight, premature birth, and even withdrawal symptoms in infants.
Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it helps eliminate fluids from the body. This means that you’re going to lose a lot of water – and important nutrients like calcium. This is why pregnant women should make sure they are drinking lots of water, juice, and milk rather than caffeinated drinks like sodas and coffee.
If you really feel like you need the energy, try spreading your meals out through the day. Have six small meals instead of the usual three a day; it’s thought that grazing on small, healthy meals throughout the day helps keep your blood sugar from spiking and crashing, which could also keep your energy levels from dropping.
Pregnancy can come with its fair share of aches, pains, and misery. A lot of medications are considered safe to take during your pregnancy, while the effects of many other medications on your growing baby are unknown.
When it comes to prescription medications, if you were taking anything before you became pregnant, talk to your doctor about whether or not it’s safe to continue those medications. The doctor will analyze the benefit to you and the risk to your baby when making his suggestions. With some medications, the risk of not taking them might actually be more serious than any possible risk to the baby if you do take them.
It’s not like you can’t take ANY medicine. But you do need to be very careful about what you take, as some medicines may have more harmful side effects earlier in your pregnancy. Acetaminophen is safe to take if you follow the recommended dosage. And of course, don’t forget your prenatal vitamins!
While you shouldn’t take any over the counter medicines without first checking with your doctor, there are several medicines that are considered to be safe when you have a cold or when you’re dealing with pregnancy symptoms like nausea, heartburn, or constipation.
Fish can be a super healthy way to get lots of protein and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, but pregnant women have to watch out for certain foods, like fish that contain high levels of mercury. Mercury consumed during pregnancy has been linked to developmental delays and brain damage. Fish that typically contain lots of mercury are shark, swordfish, mackerel, and tilefish.
Smoked seafood (often labeled lox, nova style, or kippered) should also be avoid because it could be contaminated with listeria. Canned or shelf-safe smoked seafood is usually fine to eat, and these ingredients are usually okay if they’re in a dish or casserole that has been cooked.
Seafood that’s low in mercury would be salmon, shrimp, pollock, tilapia, or trout. Canned tuna generally has a lower amount of mercury than other tuna, but should still be eaten in moderation. Be sure to cook fish to 145 degrees Fahrenheit – or until it’s opaque in the center.
Raw beef, undercooked poultry, and raw seafood should all be avoided during pregnancy because the risk of contamination with bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella. Most seafood-borne illness is caused by undercooked shellfish (oysters, clams, and mussels.) While cooking helps prevent some types of infection, it doesn’t do anything to prevent the algae-related infections that are associated with red tide.
Put down that cookie dough. Raw eggs or foods that contain raw eggs should be avoided because of the possible exposure to salmonella. Other foods that contain raw eggs would be some Caesar salad dressings, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream or custards, and Hollandaise sauce. Commercially made ice cream, dressing, and condiments are made with pasteurized eggs and don’t increase the risk of salmonella.
Unpasteruized milk and soft cheeses may contain listeria. Soft cheeses would be brie, Camembert, Roquefort, feta, Gorgonzola, Mexican-style cheeses like queso blanco or queso fresco – unless they clearly state that they are made from pasteurized milk.
Don’t forget the fruits and veggies! Of course they are part of a healthy, balanced diet – but make sure you wash and prepare them carefully, as fruits and vegetables may come into contact with toxoplasmosis in the soil in which they grow.
When you’re pregnant and tired, slapping a quick sandwich together for lunch sounds like the easy way to go. However, you have to be careful with what you’re eating. Deli meats have been known to be contaminated with listeria. Listeria is capable of crossing the placenta and infecting the baby; this could lead to dangerous infection or blood poisoning and may be life-threatening. If you’re going to eat a sandwich with cold cuts, reheat the meat until it is steaming hot.
You could also try roasting your own meats. While it’s not as convenient as grabbing a sandwich from the deli counter or picking up a pound of thinly-sliced meat at the supermarket, it will give you peace of mind knowing that your food was cleaned, cooked, and prepared properly and therefore, is okay to eat.
Use a food thermometer and make sure to cook beef, veal and lamb, to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook pork and all ground meats to 160 degrees. Cook poultry to 165 degrees. Be sure to clean all utensils and cutting boards thoroughly in between uses to avoid cross-contamination.
The American Pregnancy Association states that pregnant women should avoid high-risk fitness activities in the first trimester. While bicycling isn’t a good idea for newbie riders, experienced cyclists may be able to continue riding into their second trimester. After your first trimester, switch to riding on a stationary bike if you want to keep pedaling through your pregnancy.
A shifting center of gravity affects balance and can make bicycling dangerous when pregnant. The same goes for activities like skiing and horseback riding. These activities require stability and balance, which may be effected by your growing belly. Activities such as bicycling and horseback riding can put pregnant women at risk of a fall, which could obviously injure the mother or baby or induce miscarriage.
If you have to ride a bike because it’s your only method of transportation, consider making other arrangements or talk to your doctor about what you can do to make biking safer for both you and baby.
Whether you should be doing any heavy lifting during your pregnancy is a question for your doctor, but generally, it’s a good idea to have someone else do it for you. For some women, lifting heavy objects can lead to an increased risk of premature labor and low birth weight. Pregnant or not, lifting an object incorrectly can result in a pulled muscle or hernia.
To lift objects safely, you should bend at your knees, not your waist. It’s also important to keep your back straight and push up with your knees. It’s important to lift things correctly while pregnant because your skeletal system and joints are changing – leaving you more prone to sprains or injuries.
When it comes to lifting weights for exercise, you should check with your doctor before beginning or continuing any exercise program. Weight training is a great way to stay fit during your pregnancy, but now is not the time to worry about losing weight or building dramatic muscle.
If you weren't a runner before you got pregnant, now is not the time to start training for your first marathon. If you’ve been a runner for awhile, it’s probably okay, but from your second trimester on, your risk of falling increases, so run with caution. Talk with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
If you really want to get some form of exercise, walking is just fine. You don’t want to overdo it. Pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion when you’re pregnant may reduce blood flow to the uterus.
Thanks to the hormone relaxin, your joints get looser during pregnancy to accommodate the growing baby inside of you. But this hormone works on all your joints – including knees and ankles. It’s a good idea to take a break from activities like kickboxing and high-impact aerobics (activities that involve lots of bouncing, hopping, and jumping) when you’re pregnant so that you don’t get hurt.
For many women, soaking in a hot tub or relaxing in a warm bubble bath sounds like the perfect way to relax, unwind, and soothe your pregnancy aches and pains. It’s fine to take baths while you’re pregnant as long as the water isn’t too hot. You don’t want to raise your body temperature higher than 102 degrees for more than ten minutes; a temperature that high can cause problems for your baby such as a drop in blood pressure, oxygen deprivation, dizziness and weakness, and birth defects, especially in the first trimester. Some studies have shown an increased risk of birth defects in babies born to women who had an increased body temperature in the first trimester.
Some women may avoid taking baths during their pregnancy because they are afraid the bath water will get into the uterus and harm the baby. Your baby is protected within his amniotic sac; therefore, unless your water breaks, there’s no way your bathwater can harm the baby.
Yoga can be very beneficial during pregnancy. It can help you breathe and relax, which can help you adjust to the physical demands of pregnancy. It also calms the mind and body, which can help you stay focused during labor.
Whether you’re new to yoga or have been taking classes for awhile, it’s a good idea to get your doctor’s input on yoga. A great way to transition into a more gentle form of yoga is to take prenatal yoga classes. Finding a prenatal yoga class in your area is a great way to meet other moms-to-be. If you’re new to yoga, it’s also a gentle and easy way to begin your practice.
Listen carefully to your body; if you feel any discomfort during your practice, you should stop. As you go (and grow!) through your pregnancy, you may have to modify and make adjustments to each pose. A good prenatal yoga instructor should be able to help you.
Even if you did them before you got pregnant, avoid bikram or hot yoga classes; these types of yoga practices are typically done in rooms with stifling temperatures between 90 and 105 degrees.
If you’re worried that some over the counter medications might harm your baby, you may consider taking homeopathic or herbal remedies instead. But just like you should contact your doctor when taking any medicine while pregnant, you should also check with him to make sure that whatever herbal remedy you’re considering is safe for you and your baby.
Many people believe that “natural” products can be used to relieve many of the annoying symptoms of pregnancy like nausea and aches and pains, but a lot of these products haven’t been tested or approved for use in pregnant women. Before taking any herbal supplement, check with your doctor; some herbs may be dangerous for your unborn baby. Some may even stimulate contractions and send you into early labor.
It is also believed that it’s best to avoid using any essential oils during your first trimester for the same reason – because they could adversely affect your baby. In the second and third trimesters, some essential oils are considered safe to use, because your baby is more developed. These include lavender, chamomile, and ylang ylang, which can all calm, relax, and help you get to sleep.
When it comes to all of the pregnancy Do’s and Don’ts that you will come across, the one about not changing the kitty litter pan might seem a little strange. It’s thought that coming into cat poop can increase your chances of contracting the parasite toxoplasmosis, which can cause brain damage and/or birth defects in a developing baby or a miscarriage if the mother becomes infected.
But cat poop isn’t your biggest threat when it comes to toxoplasmosis. Although it can be found in cat poop, it can also be found in raw or undercooked meat and in plant soil. (This is your reminder to cook your meat thoroughly, clean your utensils and cutting boards, and wash your fruits and vegetables!) You don’t have to avoid your cat, stick him outside, or give him up for adoption. If you want to be extra safe, wear disposable gloves when cleaning up the kitty litter pan, or get someone else to do it.
While you might not be feeling your best during your first trimester, you may be tempted to keep up with your usual beauty routines. However, some of your usual beauty routines and products might not be a good idea while you’re pregnant.
Your skin can be really sensitive during pregnancy, so you should probably skip irritating treatments like exfoliating facials, chemical peels, laser procedures, and products containing salicylic acid. Also, when it comes to your skin, don’t forget the sunscreen. Indoors or outside, tanning increases your risk of cancer. And hold off on any lip plumping or wrinkle smoothing injections; dermal fillers haven’t been tested or approved for use on pregnant women.
While you might want to hit the salon for a new 'do and some highlights, or maybe a mani-pedi, it might be a good idea to hold off until the little one arrives. It’s hard to say whether or not the chemicals in certain hair colors can affect your growing baby. It’s thought that the fumes are harmful. And the chemicals in nail polish are potentially toxic as well. If you can’t resist pampering yourself, be sure to choose a polish that does not contain the chemicals dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde. And when it’s time to dry, skip the UV light and just use the fan instead.